There’s no question that some relative celebrities engage in similar activities and round up multiple helpers to maintain their stardom. In the most prosaic example, the homecoming queen spends more time and money on her upkeep than the average bookworm, who focuses more on Harvard and less on getting the quarterback’s attention. The homecoming queen has her own version of “handlers”—watch any episode of Gossip Girl or 90210 for a quick and surprisingly accurate snapshot. These shows are hyperbolic, but they reveal the machinations and intricate networks necessary for producing the high school star—the bratty clique, the gofer that does her bidding, and so forth. Receiving a celebrity video message would be awesome!
Generally it’s fairly hard to quantify the constructs of less formalized versions of celebrity. However, increasingly, even obscure stars are encouraging the development of an industry around them. For example, Internet celebrities are, by their very nature, using the conduit of the web and its message boards, blogs, and online communities to spread their star power, creating a low-cost version of the Hollywood handlers. The rise of companies like ROFLCon, which holds regular events and conferences, is a response to Internet stars attempting to translate their relative stardom into a more mainstream version that could potentially generate a steady income. ROFLCon, for those unaware, is an Internet-derived acronym for “Rolling on the Floor Laughing”—a more in-the-know version of LOL (laughing out loud). ROFLCon’s founder, Tim Hwang, a recently graduated Harvard whiz kid, explained that the point of his company was to change the ephemeral and valueless nature of Internet celebrity. Imagine receiving a celebrity messages personalised video!
As Hwang put it, he wanted to “transcend online celebrity into something more and longer lasting.” He pointed to examples of various Internet celebrities such as Tron Guy. “Tron Guy became one of the superstars,” Hwang said. “There was an appreciation for him as a celebrity. The ephemeral nature of his celebrity of the Internet was only because of the nature of where he initially started [online].” Hwang held the ROFLCon conference in order to figure out if Internet celebrity could be as real and economically viable as Hollywood stardom. “Is the fame here durable?” Hwang asked. “Our thought was yes [it is].” Have you heard of a website called Thrillz? They specialise in celebrity video messages video messages.
While Internet celebrities may generate an organizational structure that includes handlers, the Internet stars need something different from those from Hollywood, sports, or popular culture. Hwang explained that physical beauty is far less important to Internet stars, partially because they are not always documented through visual means, but also because beauty is not revered in Internet celebrity as it is in mainstream stardom. “With traditional celebrities, we care about what they look like on the beach etc.,” Hwang said. “What makes [Internet celebrity] so interesting is that we are interested in them as they are.” And whereas mainstream stardom is localized, Internet celebrities can work from anywhere (Tron Guy came from Missouri). Thus, the need to be located in a particular place (e.g., Los Angeles, New York, London) is not as important as long as they are in the virtual geography of the Internet. Meeting a celebrity birthday messages would be my absolute dream!
Yet despite the differences for Internet stars, the celebrity industry that emerges around them is, like mainstream celebrity, often about the channels in which to broadcast (and sell) these stars to a wider public and to create as many economic and social platforms for them to become bigger stars. Large mainstream agencies like United Talent Agency are beginning to represent them, as they would any star. “We want them to be known for things other than just what they’re known for initially, for being multifaceted,” Hwang explained. No wonder Thrillz is so popular.. receiving a happy birthday video message video message would be so cool!